© 2016 Elizabeth P. Glixman
From Tom Dooley, Managing and Fiction Editor
It's the start of a new decade, at least, Eclectica-wise. It took us a full year, but the four anthologies we published to celebrate our 20th anniversary are now available from all the usual outlets. If you're planning to buy one, patronizing our CreateSpace E-Store will provide the greatest bang for your buck in supporting what we're trying to achieve over the next year. Use the discount code X75ZMZJY to get ten percent off. This spring we'll be organizing some readings around the US, perhaps in other countries as well, perhaps a virtual reading... these will be opportunities to promote the books, but equally important, they'll be a chance for members of the Eclectica family to get together.
Speaking of reunions, former Interview Editor Elizabeth Glixman has lent this issue her distinctive, colorful, and many-textured artwork. The image above is one of my favorite pieces of hers, but I should offer the caveat that the images throughout this issue are really a derivation of Glixman's pieces; the orignals are three-dimensional and meant to be experienced that way, while here I've done a bit of cropping and flattening to get them onto the virtual "page." Even so, these versions provide a vibrant presence, and it's great to have Betty involved with Eclectica again.
I enjoyed selecting the seven stories appearing in this issue. They represent the kind of variety and quality that built Eclectica's reputation over the years, and I say that in total deference to the authors who write these pieces and are kind enough to send them our way. Credit for whatever success we've enjoyed rests squarely on our contributors, many of whom, like this issue's Spotlight Runner-Up for fiction, Inderjeet Mani, aren't just "one-and-done"-ers, but have joined our little family of writers, editors, and readers by coming back as repeat offenders. Inderjeet's story "Genes" is a bracing read, one you'll be hard pressed to forget. After reading it for the first time, I hesitated a few seconds, wondering if the story didn't cross the line between memorable and too much—if readers might find it and its narrator too despicable, the events too disturbing, and the story's appearance in Eclectica some kind of endorsement of them (the narrator and events) rather than an endorsement of the author for shining—with impeccably precise prose!—such an unflinching light upon them. A few seconds reflection cemented my belief in the latter. One of the things about this publication I take the most pride in is providing a home to deserving pieces that might otherwise be overlooked or avoided.
The other selections in this issue may be less controversial, but I found them no less enjoyable. And given the other six authors are appearing in our fiction section for the first time, it's exciting to think about what the future might hold. As is often the case with stories I'm drawn to, there are indelible characters here, like Lyn Stevens' vastly different sisters in "Fear of Heights," including the narrator Gwen, the "pudgy polar opposite" of her aspiring super-model sibling Geneva. Gwen is kind of like a combination of a female version of Will Lasky's narrator in "The Ugly Man's Guide to Self Improvement" and the sassy narrator of Soma Mei Sheng Frazier's "Maybe I Should Call This Fiction."
The characters in "She's Back to Sleeping" by Ryan Blacketter remind me of fine, pencil-drawn portraits, where the cross-hatches of the shading achieve more realism than a color photograph could. Chris Jenkins gives us a bright young "half-breed Indian" growing up with a port-wine stain on his face and a white mother who blows in and out of his life "like an Oklahoma wind blowing across the prairie." Nandini Dhar's frustrated daughter of a maid in India (not an Indian maiden, but literally a maid in India) has a curious aspiration: to someday have a job she can quit. On the surface of it, "Under Employment" is an oft-told story about class and caste, but what elevates it is, as with the other stories here, the depth of these characters. They are familiar, but they are also not going to succumb to stereotype, at least not without a fight. And speaking of fighting, Nathan Elias' "Property Damage" and David Vardeman's "Investigations into Loneliness" both feature protagonists struggling to find their place in life, negotiating the pitfalls of being in love with the wrong people.
In all, it's a batch of fiction I'm proud to present, and I hope you enjoy reading these stories as much as I did.
Speaking of great stories and success, the storySouth Million Writers Award has announced the 2016 Notables list, and I'm proud to announce four of the 35 stories so honored appeared in Eclectica, with another two being by former contributors. Congrats to Ahsan Butt ("Tasneem"), Rudy Koshar ("Saving Hermann Hesse"), Kiare Ladner ("Leftovers"), and Robert Roman ("The Boy Wonder"), and a fond shout out to former alums Chika Unigwe and Chikodili Emelumadu.
Our Poetry Editor Jennifer Finstrom will no doubt have some things to say about Barbara De Franceschi, who after 14 years of gracing this publication with her poetry is being honored as our Spotlight Author, and Nonfiction Editor David Ewald will talk about his Spotlight Runner Up, Jane Van Slembrouck. I'm ever grateful to Jen, Barbara, and David for their many efforts and contributions, and happy to have Jane on board for what I hope will be an ongoing relationship.
Thank you for checking all this out, and happy reading!
From Gilbert S. Purdy, Review Editor
Thanks to Ann Skea, as always, for her insightful reviews. We welcome to Jennifer Finstrom, Eclectica's Poetry Editor, to the review section this issue. I'm pleased to point out that, among her three reviews, our readers will find a book by an Eclectica poet, David Oestreich.
I would like to invite anyone who might read this to send along reviews of books, art, music, cultural organizations, companies and events—local, regional, national, and international—and cultural crit pieces on the same. Feel free to do so as a one-off or more or less regularly as works for you. I look forward to continue to expand the Review/Interview Section during the months ahead, to include a wide range of lively, insightful (even quirky) cultural crit. I hope you will stop by to read and/or submit.
From Jennifer Finstrom, Poetry Editor
Every issue of Eclectica is a new journey. And while there are often familiar voices along the way, there are always new voices in our digital pages as well. Both speak to varied experiences in places near and far, and I hope someday to make a map showing where all of our Eclectica "family" lives and writes. I'm living and writing in Chicago, and I've occasionally had the delightful experience of meeting someone whose work has appeared in Eclectica and whom I didn't know previously—I hope for more experiences like this when we have the upcoming Chicago anthology celebration!
The reason that I'm musing on where Eclectica's poets and other contributors are located is that this issue's feature, Barbara De Franceschi, is a writer whom I've never met in person, and yet her involvement with Eclectica pre-dates my joining the staff as poetry editor. Barbara is in Broken Hill, Australia, pretty far from where I write this in Chicago on an unseasonably warm winter day. Barbara's first appearance was in the Jul/Aug issue of 2003 with a lovely poem called "Lemon Tree." That poem is a hopeful one, and I find that thread of hope running through Barbara's spotlight poems here as well. The two Word Poems—again, we have a Word Poet in the Spotlight!—are "Desert Fringe Dwellers" and "Run through a Tunnel." There is a line that I keep coming back to in "Run through a Tunnel": "I look at the trees / leaf by leaf / peel back the sunshine / a beam at a time." This act of peeling back the sunshine is something that all of Barbara's poems do for me: allow me to see what is around me more clearly. Please enjoy these two poems and visit the archives for more!
This issue marks the 18th appearance in our pages from Antonia Clark, the fifth appearance from Judy Kaber (last issue's Spotlight Runner-Up), and the third appearance from Gina O'Neill. You can find them all in the Word Poem Special Feature. And they aren't alone in returning to Eclectica. New voices include Michelle Brooks, Lakshmi Arya Thathachar, James Mele, Chuck Kramer, Lee Nash, Darren C. Demaree, Candace Rex, and Annie Stenzel. Truly a banner issue to meet some new (to us) poets! I hope you're as excited as I am to see what the April/May issue will bring!
From David Ewald, Nonfiction, Travel, and Miscellany Editor
With the inauguration days away and a power shift the likes of which this country has never seen about to take place, I've been thinking about facts and the importance of evidence in speaking and writing. The world is not Orwellian blackwhite, not believing is seeing. It's still seeing is believing, and there is context. There is history. When I first read "My Helen Keller" by Spotlight nominee Jane Van Slembrouck, I knew I was in good hands. Here were facts, some I did already know and others I did not, researched, compiled and narrated with an appropriate ethos. "My Helen Keller" is especially notable for the fact that it's academic, a style I don't often find myself accepting as nonfiction editor. Ms. Van Slembrouck successfully melds the academic with the personal, and we learn much about our world as well as Keller's because of it.
In many ways just as strong, "The Sort of Thing Everyone Knows" by Ian Stoner, while set in the late 1980s and early 1990s, speaks very much to the 2010s. As social media enables us to seek out and live our lives with only the opinions, beliefs, ideologies and people we agree with, it's worth reflecting back on an innocent time when the truth of a song could change an adolescent's perspective.
Finally, travel memoirist Kurt Schmidt is back, this time with "The Hottest Woman in Scandinavia." The title says it all—or does it? Hotness can be defined in many ways, and what better place to define hotness for yourself than in a foreign country?
Happy New Year, and enjoy.